The HTC Desire ships running Android 2.1 but will be upgradeable to Android 2.2. As of this writing, U.S. Cellular didn't have a specific time frame for the update but said it would be later this year, so you'll have to wait a bit for Flash Player 10.1 and some of the other Froyo features. Still, you're getting a very full Android experience and even a few extras from HTC and U.S. Cellular, including Your Navigator Deluxe, My Contacts Backup, and HTC's Twitter client, Peep.
Like other Android phones, the Desire can sync data from multiple e-mail accounts and social networking sites, including Gmail, POP3, IMAP, Exchange, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, and merges info into a unified calendar and contact list. HTC Sense provides a somewhat different interface in the e-mail and People apps. For example, the mail app features a tabbed interface at the bottom that lets you view unread messages, attachments, meeting invites, and more with a simple touch, whereas the standard Android experience provides just a single view of all your messages. Similarly, the People app provides you with a tabbed selection for all contacts, group contacts, online directory, and call log. It's a handy way of easily filtering messages and contacts.
Voice features include a speakerphone, speed dial, smart dialing, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. Bluetooth, GPS, 3G, and integrated Wi-Fi are all onboard as well. Though you don't get the full Flash Player 10.1 yet, the WebKit browser does offer support for Flash Lite, multiple windows, and an HTC Sense feature that enables you to make a long-press over some text on a Web page, and then look up a word or phrase in the dictionary or Wikipedia or have it translated via Google Translate.
One other area where you'll find HTC Sense working its magic is the media player. It adds a nice Coverflow-like interface that doesn't necessarily add functionality but makes the user experience much more pleasant. The media player supports a range of music and video file formats, including MP3, AAC, WAV, WMV, and MP4, and comes with an 8GB microSD card to get you started for file storage. The expansion slot can accept up to 32GB cards.
The Desire is equipped with a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and flash. There are various camera options available to you. For example, there are adjustable settings for brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness. You can also apply effects to pictures. Despite all this, picture quality on shots taken indoors wasn't great, as images came out a bit cloudy and colors looked dull. Also, a video recorded at the highest resolution available (1,280x720 pixels) came out murky and didn't capture action sequences well.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) HTC Desire in New York using U.S. Cellular's roaming service and call quality was very good. On our side of the conversation, the voice quality was rich, and we didn't hear any type of voice distortion or background noise to distract us from our call. We heard very few complaints from our friends, as well. Most said the audio was loud and clear, though a couple mentioned some tinniness. Speakerphone calls were pretty much what we expected: loud enough for talking outdoors but slightly hollow-sounding.
We successfully paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones. However, voice dialing over Bluetooth is not currently supported on the Desire as this is a feature added in Android 2.2.
Despite roaming, we were able to get 3G coverage here in New York with swift data speeds. CNET's full site loaded in 23 seconds, whereas the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN both came up in 7 seconds. YouTube videos took a few seconds to buffer but played back without interruption. Audio and video weren't always synced up, however. Our own videos looked great, and we enjoyed rich and balanced music playback using the Desire with a pair of Bose On-Ear Headphones.
With a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, the HTC Desire was able to keep up with our demands with no problem. We experienced very little delay or lag during our review unit, as it quickly launched apps and handily switched between tasks.
The HTC Desire ships with a 1,400mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 10.6 days of standby time. The smartphone met the rated talk time in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Desire has a digital SAR rating of 1.48 watts per kilogram.